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Application Integration Through Mail Servers

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This article is taken from the book Open Source ESBs in Action: Example Implementations in Mule and ServiceMix. This segment shows how to integrate Mule and ServiceMix with a mail server.

A very easy and asynchronous way to integrate applications where performance and speed aren't an issue is a Mail based integration approach. Using POP3 and SMTP allows for easy communication between applications. Besides that it can serve as an easy way to communicate with the end user or the support department about certain events. For instance when an error occurs the support department can be automatically notified by sending an email containing the error message and some additional information.

We will show how to use the SMTP and POP3 protocols from Mule and ServiceMix to communicate with a Mail server. For the Mail server we will be using Apache James, which is an Open Source Mail server that supports all Mail related pr otocols. You could of course also use your own Mail server for the examples in this section.

We will once again focus on the connectivity functionality and only show you a couple of basic examples. The first example as shown in figur e 6.8, will show how to send an e-mail message to a Mail Server from Mule and ServiceMix.

Figure 6.1 Example where we read a file from the file system with the ESB and forward the message to a Mail server using SMTP connectivity.


The other example we will implement with Mule and ServiceMix is how to receive e-mail messages from a Mail server as shown in figure 6.9.

Figure 6.2 Example where we receive an e-mail from a Mail server using the ESB with POP3 connectivity and sent the e-mail message to the file system.

To implement examples as shown in figure 6.8 and 6.9 we will use file connectivity to trigger or process the result of the Mail connectivity, because this is easy to test. The figures also show the use of a Mail client, a nd you can use your favorite Mail client to work with these examples. Let's first look at how we to configure SMTP connectivity in Mule.

Connecting Mule to POP3 and SMTP

The first thing we're going to look at is how to setup Mule so that we can send an email to a specific e-mail address from a Mule configuration. As we've mentioned in the introduction of this section, we're going to read a file from the file system and send the file contents as the body an e-mail to a configured email address. The Mule configuration shown in code listing defines this SMTP connectivity.

Listing 6.1 Mule services configuration which sends mails using SMTP

<mule xmlns=""

 <model name="mail-model">
  <service name="file-to-mail">
      <file:inbound-endpoint path="chapter6/4a/in">	#1

    <file:file-to-string-transformer />
        <smtp:outbound-endpoint	#2
	from="mu le@localhost"
	replyT o="sales@localhost"
	subject="You've got mail from Mule!"
	host="localhost"	#3
	port="10025"	#3
	user="mule"	#3
	password="mule" />	#3
#1: The file input directory 
#2: Define a SMTP outbound endpoint
#3: Configure SMTP connection properties

We only need to tell mule how to connect to the SMTP server (#3), as part of a SMTP outbound endpoint definition (#2). In this case we’ll connect to a local Mail server (Apache James) using mule for the username and password.

Before we can start-up Mule with this Mule configuration, we first need to start Apache James with the ext:start-james Ant target in the ch6-build.xml file. We can now run this example with the chapter6-mail-smtp-4a Ant target in the same Ant build file. To trigger the SMTP service definition of code listing 6.26 you need to drop a file into the chapter6/4a/in directory (#1). Mule will send the file content to the configured endpoint, with the content of the file as the body of the e-mail message. We can now use any Mail client to receive the message as shown figure

Figure 6.3 Screenshot showing that we can receive an e-mail message with the Mule configuration we’ve implemented.

We've seen how to configure Mule to send e-mails, so now let's look at the next part of this section, which is receiving e-mail messages. To work with this example we will use an Mail client to send a message, and use the Mule POP3 transport to read the message from the Mail server. We'll start again by looking at the Mule configuration shown in code listing 6.27.

Listing 6.2 Mule service configuration which receives e-mails using POP3.

<mule xmlns=""

  <pop3:connector name="pop3Connector"
   checkFrequency="5000"	#1
   deleteReadMessages="false"/>	#2

  <model name="mail-model">
    <service name="mail-sender">
       <pop3:inbound-endpoint	#3
	  port="10110" />
            path="chapter6/4b/out"/>	#4
#1: E-mail check every 5 seconds
#2: Don't delete read e-mails
#3: POP3 connection configuration
#4: File output directory

This code looks very similar to the Mule configuration of code listing 6.26, where we discussed how to send e-mail messages. We configure where the POP3 server is located and which username and password should be used to make the connection (#3). We have also specified some additional properties on the pop3:connector. In this case we tell Mule to not delete messages it has received (#2), and to check every five seconds for new e-mail messages (#1).

If we want to test this we can use a simple Mail client. Just send a message to mule@localhost and you'll see that Mule will pick it up and process it.

We've now seen how Mule can work with POP3 and SMTP. Besides these protocols Mule also supports the secure variants: SPOP3 and SMTPS and also IMAP. You use these secure transports the same way as the ones mentioned in this section, you just have to supply some additional security properties such as certificates.

Connecting ServiceMix to POP3 and SMTP

To implement Mail connectivity with ServiceMix we will need a Binding Component to receive e-mail messages using POP3 and we need a Binding Component that is able to send e-mail messages using SMTP. There is a Mail Binding Component available for ServiceMix, but this BC is only available for version 3.3 and greater. This version is not yet released at the moment of writing, so we will use a Mail JBI component provided b y another JBI implementation.

In the JDBC example we’ve already shown how to use a JBI component from the OpenESB project. In this example we’ll be using a JBI component provided by the Petals project, which we already discussed in chapter 1. When you created the environment in chapter 3 we’ve already pr ovided this Binding Component, so no e xtra installs or downloads are needed.


The Petals components unfortunately don’t work out of the box in th e ServiceMix container. We mentioned earlier that usually this is caused by incompatible Jar files or other library and class loading issues. In this case how ever, the problems are simply caused by a bug in ServiceMix. If you look at the jbi.xml file from the JDBC example, you can see that we specify consumes and provides elements. These two elements are described in the JBI specification, but don’t allow service specific configuration. ServiceMix uses xbeans for thi s configuration, and the OpenESB project configures services uses a WSDL file. Howe ver, Petals use the standard extension mechanism which is described in the JBI specification. This allows additional configuration elements to be present in the jbi.xml file. In ServiceMix however only the first of these extension elements was processed. We’ve provided you with a patched version, to solve this issue.

As we’ve explained at the beginning of this section we want to read a file from the file system and use ServiceMix to send an e-mail message using the file contents to a certain e-mail address.

The first thing which we’ve done in every example so far is configure a simple file poller on the file system. This configuration is shown in listing 6.28.

Listing 6.3 File poller configuration which sends the message to the mail service.

  <file:poller service="esb:filePoller"
    targetService="esb:mail-service"	#1
    targetEndpoint="mailEndpoint"	#1
    file="chapter6/6a-mail/in"	#2
#1: The Mail service to invoke 
#2: The directory to poll

In the file poller implementation we just read a file from the file system and send the received file to the Mail service endpoint. Now let’s focus on the Mail service implementation.

We’ve explained in previous sections that configuring Service Units in ServiceMix is done in the form of xbean.xml files. When you’re working with Petals, you don’t configure the Service Unit in an xbean.xml file, you configure it in a jbi.xml file. The configuration of a Petals Service Unit which sends a message to an email address is shown in listing 6.29.

Listing 6.4 Configuration for sending mails using the Petals Mail Binding Component.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<jbi:jbi xmlns:xsi=" a-instance"

  <jbi:services binding-component="true">
    <jbi:provides interface-name="esb:MailInterface"	#1
       <petals:param name="scheme">smtp</petals:param>
       <petals:param name="hostname">localhost</petals:param>	#2
       <petals:param name="port">10025</petals:param>	#2
       <petals:param name="username">petals</petals:param>	#2
       <petals:param name="password">petals</petals:param>	#2
       <petals:param name="from">

       <petals:param name="to">sm@localhost</petals:param>	#3
#1: JBI service definition 
#2 : Mail connection definition
#3: Target e-mail address

Adding the Petals Mail Binding Com ponent for Mail support to ServiceMix is very easy. All you have to do is configure the location of the Mail server (#2). One thing you might notice is tha t we didn’t set the subject. This is a limitation of the Petals Mail component, the subject of the email message sent is always set to the name of service. So in this example where a e-mail message is sent, the subject will be mail-service. Work is currently being done on this component to make the subject name configurable.

One more thing to notice about this configuration is the “provides” element (#1). In chapter 2 we talked about consumers and providers. This example implements a provider, which can be accessed from other JBI services by sending a JIB message to this service endpoint.

If we now run this example with the ch6-build.xml Ant build file, and drop a file into the input directory which we specified in code listing 6.27, ServiceMix will pick up this message and send it to the Petals Mail component which will send an e-mail message to the configured email address, sm@localhost (#3).

To receive e-mail messages we need to configure another jbi.xml file for the same Petals Mail Binding Component, only this time we consume a service endpoint provided by the ServiceMix File Binding Component. Let’s first look at the service endpoint which is provided by the File component in the following code snippet.

<file:sender service="esb:mailFileWriter"

This File Binding Component configuration provides a JBI service with the name esb:mail-service and has an endpoint with the name sender. We will consume this service endpoint from our Petals Mail configuration as shown in code listing 6.30.

Listing 6.5 Petals configuration for the Mail component to receive e-mails.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<jbi:jbi xmlns:xsi=""
  xmlns:esb="http://opensourceesb/mail/" version="1.0">

<jbi:services binding-component="true">
   <jbi:consumes	#1
    <petals:param name="period">10000</petal s:param>
    <petals:param name="scheme">pop3</petals:param>
    <petals:param name="hostname">	#2
    <petals:param name="port">10110</petals:param>
    <petals:param name="username">	#3
    <petals:param name="password">
#1: JBI service definition 
#2: Mail hostname configuration
#3: Username for Mail server authentication

The main difference with the Mail component configuration of code listing 6.29 is that we specify a scheme of POP3 instead of SMTP. This will tell the Petals Mail component to start polling for mail messages. Whenever a message is received it will be sent to the service endpoint configured in the consume section (#1). In this example we specified the service and endpoint names for the File sender JBI service. So whenever a message is received it will be passed on to the File sender JBI service which writes it to the file sytem.

Besides Petals, OpenESB also provides a Mail component. The OpenESB Mail component provides a lot of configuration options and has a lot of features but is somewhat harder to use since it requires the WSDL based configuration we saw in the JDBC example of section 6.3. If you just want an easy way to connect to Mail servers the Petals component is probably the best solution, if you however need more advanced features and don’t mind the WSDL based configuration the OpenESB component would a better choice. Of course, when ServiceMix version 3.3 will be released a Mail Binding Component will be available out-of-the-box.

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Community comments

  • Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all this

    by John Wheeler,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    trouble to make something so slow and convoluted work

  • Re: Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all t

    by Andreas Breiter,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Because it works, is easy to implement and every company has a mail server.
    We use e-mail and SMS to interface with Lufthansa. We only get sporadically messages and they already had it, so there was no need to re-invent the wheel...

  • Re: Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all t

    by Gregor Rosenauer,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Imagine human workflows or HumanTask's - you get an incident message, work on it, and when done, forward it to the "done"-box, from where the system picks it up and continues...
    Or mobile services where users interact with the system via SMS or e-mail.
    There are many useful applications for such a scenario. I own the book and can highly recommend it.

  • Re: Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all t

    by Christophe Hamerling,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I really think that you do not understand SOA... This article is just an introduction of what you can do with ESBs. Of course you can say why do I need an ESB and tons of configuration to send an email but SOA and ESBs are not limited to that simple case!

  • Re: Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all t

    by John Wheeler,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say any of this is "easy". It seems complicated and convoluted. If performance and speed aren't issues, then why not just opt for standard messaging as to get the fault tolerance along with it? I could be wrong, but at first glance, this integration approach seems redundant, more complicated, and if I saw it in the wild, I'd probably assume developers were just over complicating things for fun and profit like some of us unfortunately sometimes do. As far as Gregor's use case goes, I am assuming this can be used instead of something like OSWorkflow, but you'd have to manually program the workflow since all this buys you is the work baskets essentially.

  • Message Broker

    by Bob G,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.


    Although this example seems a bit naïve, it does provide some good functionalities out-of-the box. Before implementing a full blown JMS solution, we might have to consider the followings:

    - Most of JMS brokers do not provide any centralized message auditing out-of-the-box (i.e. saving all message content that went through a queue). It is built-in a Mail server with archiving etc.

    -When it comes time to view ,sort, move, copy messages, don’t count on a WebsphereMQ client tools to help you. Using an email server you can leverage the use of a good email client to interact with your messages.

    -Everybody knows how to send an email. Sending MQ messages using JMS (without Spring) is not the easiest task.

    That said, if you are building an enterprise solution (with time, skills and money), you might consider other approaches.


  • Re: Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all t

    by Dan Doyon,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I recently worked on a project where we needed to connect a couple of systems and decided to use existing exchange server (IMAP accounts) and a few python scripts for the glue. It turned out to be a nice way of doing things. We got a free gui (outlook), it was easily unit testable. When the mail server was down for maintenance, no problem, things just resumed when it came back up. Was it an elegant solution? Depends on who you ask. Durable? It did have a little brittleness but easily traceable. At the end of the day, we got it running quite quickly. It required little interaction from a subsystem we treated as a blackbox. If the need to replace with a more durable, sophisticated messaging construct is required the scaffolding in place.

    my 2 cents

  • Re: Come on guys. This is stupid. Why would anyone want to go through all t

    by Porter Woodward,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Well, the example is trivial. It's just intended to show off how to send/receive mail messages in the most basic sense. Keep in mind though - that once that information is sent/received - there's potentially a lot you could do with it.

    How about building a photo posting service? Just email your photo from your cell phone and it gets posted to your online photo album.

    One of the nice things that an ESB can do for you is abstract away the protocol details. Your core application for handling the posting of a picture to the album doesn't change... And it then becomes pretty easy to introduce new end-points (email, web forms, sms, ftp, etc) without writing much (if any) new code.

  • Nitty Gritty of ESB

    by C L,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I know that this solution is convoluted and troublesome, but it's nice to see how ESB actually works, since it actually does work even if it's alittle complicated. Some companies are still using this way of implementation to get their information through their pipelines. You could say that it's old school.

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